Whit Stillman’s “Preppie Style Guide”

Happy start to a new week, we hope your weekend was refreshing and restorative.

In our last post we chatted about Whit Stillman’s new film, Damsels in Distress, and mentioned his reputation as an über-prep. We also promised a look at something of a style guide from the filmmaker, L Magazine’s The Measure has a delightful piece on Mr. Stillman and his style.

Even though … Stillman’s latest film, is set in a collegiate Oz rather than the Ivy League, he continues to have an unshakeable reputation as cinema’s Preppie ambassador. But preppie looks in the films—and on him—are in many ways simply an economical solution for a look that doesn’t age, as much a matter of penny-pinching as aesthetics.

The story is titled Whit Stillman’s Guide to Preppie Style.

L Magazine

The first topic addressed in the Style Guide is one near and dear to my heart, madras.

I got a really nice Madras jacket from Ralph Lauren, so reduced they almost paid me to take it out of the store. And I was so happy to put it on and see how it looked on a hot summer day in New York, this very light Madras jacket. I remember the cool guys going to work in New York the early 60s, maybe in August, wearing them. I remember it being this very cool thing.

I love them. They’re so light and comfortable, and I think they can be so good-looking.

Below we show several contemporary madras items, left to right: a Polo Ralph Lauren sportcoat at Nordstrom , a Brooks Brothers jacket and a Young Ladies Jacket, also at Brooks.

Polo Ralph Lauren/Brooks Brothers/Brooks Brothers

Next on Mr. Stillman’s hit parade, Bass Weejuns.

As you get older sometimes things become more and more extreme, and my pathology of cheapness has become so dominant that it sort of messes up my life. But I love it when something’s really economical, but also kind of classic and good. So I really like Bass Weejuns because they’re the cheapest leather shoes you can buy. They look good, you know all about them, they’re very comfortable, they slip on and slip off.

Now this is the only area where your trusty scribe might differ with Mr. Stillman, it is more of a semantical challenge than a true philosophical disagreement; finding a good bargain, something one will use again and again and again, doesn’t seem like cheapness, rather it speaks to practical perspective, perhaps with a dash of frugality…no?

At any rate, here are two images from the current Weejuns collection at Bass.

Bass Weejuns

These vintage Base advertising images are fun.

G.H. Bass & Co.

Another style favorite mentioned in the story:

My favorite thing are comfortable, cotton trousers. I really like those sort of challenging colors. That summer of Nantucket look: men who are macho enough to wear pastels.

I imagine this selection by J. McLaughlin is also the sort of thing Mr. Stillman is referencing.

J. McLaughlin

These would probably fit the bill as well, from the left we see authentic Nantucket Reds from Murray’s (where they originated), a soft yellow chino by J. Press and a pink pair from Brooks Brothers.

Murray's Toggery/J. Press/Brooks Brothers

The filmmaker talks about a particular pair of corduroy pants:

Because I remember wearing trousers like that that I thought were totally cool, these green corduroys with the knees totally worn through. But I went up to my sister’s apartment, and her five-year-old son was pointing right at my knees, saying there was something wrong with my trousers.

We show a pair of bright Kelly green Ralph Lauren cords posted for sale back in 2010 on a fashion forum, as well as two in more subdued shades of green, the middle image shows a pair from Orvis and on the right, classic O’connell’s corduroys.

Style Forum/Orvis/O'Connell's

Among other tidbits included in Miriam Bale’s story, Mr. Stillman’s perspective on jeans:

I wore blue jeans—pretty much the same pair of blue jeans—every day, throughout college. And I decided the moment I graduated from college that I would never wear blue jeans again. And I have never worn blue jeans again.

That’s interesting to see in this day and age.

Our thanks to Deirdre at L Magazine for letting us know about the story, this one was fun to put together.


Filed under preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, Preppy People

9 responses to “Whit Stillman’s “Preppie Style Guide”

  1. I don’t question it, but even if I did, the fact that I love every single item listed (and prioritized as listed), solidifies that I have a strong taste for the preppy lifestyle and look. While I have mutltiple tastes in clothing styles, my day to day seems to be strongly influenced by preppy fashion. I love it!

  2. TPP – I have been dying to buy some madras (shorts, skirt) and wear it in England, where few would understand it, which would make it all the more satisfying a wear. I could even wear it in the closest town to my village, possibly the least preppy place on earth, for max effect. It must be done. I heart madras.

  3. Always liked madras…and am a big J McLaughlin fan……preppy can be toned down or revved up in a big way…but to me its always a classic, timeless and elegant way to dress.

  4. I am having such an issue leaving comments. Hope it works this time, love madras and J McLaughlin, buy from them regularly. To me prep is not a fashion or trend, its a timeless and classic way to dress, and you can tone it down to rev it up to your liking.

  5. kathleenlisson

    I agree. No blue jeans.

  6. Can’t wait to see the movie! His movies are among my all time favorites. I did the opposite. I NEVER wore jeans in college, but now I have a pair and seem to be wearing them weekly if not more-sigh

  7. Great Post!! Thank you for sharing this. As an “OLD”, dyed-in-the-wool prep, I love reading such pieces! xoxo

  8. Hey! I, too, am having a terrible time with my commenting today. If I’ve already commented, I apologize. But – this “OLD”, dyed-in-the-wool prep loves this post. Thank you for sharing. You’re the Best. Sandra xoxo

  9. Hah! I was just looking at a madras blazer :O)
    I lurve my Weejuns! Tho I manage to buy them in the children’s section for even less. And no tax! Let’s not confused inexpensive/frugal with cheap. Cheap is wearing one season clothes from Wallies. Frugal is buy shoes that will last forever at a good price.

    Macho and preppy are two words that really should never be used together.

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